June 2010

Why Torey Lovullo Ties His Shoes In A Double Knot

Tonight when PawSox manager Torey Lovullo walks out to home plate to exchange lineup cards, his shoes will be double-knotted because of former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden.


It’s not a tribute to the coaching legend following his death.  Lovullo has tied his shoes that way for more than 30 years.


“I used to go to his basketball camps every year, and they were some of the greatest things I’ve even been a part of,” Lovullo said.  “He would come in those big horn-rimmed glasses and watch you intently.  I remember he called me over and said, ‘Come here young fella.  Are your shoes tied?’  I looked down and the laces were kind of loose because I had only tied one knot.  He said, ‘Never go without double-knotting your shoes.’  So I will double-knot my shoes for the rest of my life whenever I am in competition.  He believed that it was a selfish maneuver and took time away from the team if you had to take time to tie your shoes.”


Lovullo with ump re.jpg 

(photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)


Torey grew up in Southern California and vividly remembers rooting for Wooden’s teams as a kid.


“That’s a big reason why I went to UCLA,” Lovullo said.  “My dad went to UCLA and I felt like I had to go there.  There was a huge attraction because I had been cheering for them my whole life, starting with UCLA basketball. 


“I remember sitting there and watching Coach Wooden’s last game in 1975.  I was 10 years old and I was really having a tough time understanding why he was retiring.  I said to my dad, ‘Why is it his last game?  He looks so intense and is so good at it.  Why is he stopping dad?’  I just couldn’t get that.  But my dad explained that Coach Wooden had probably decided that he was going to retire at 65 to dedicate his life to his wife, kids, and grandkids.


“My dad would constantly say, ‘Be quick Torey, but don’t hurry.’  If I didn’t hear it once, I heard it probably 10,000 times from my dad.  It wasn’t until I was about 18 and I opened up a book of John Wooden’s most famous quotes that I realized that he was the man who came up with, ‘Be quick, but don’t hurry.’  For all of those years, I thought my dad was brilliant.”


The lessons continued after Lovullo began playing baseball for the Bruins.  Once after a win over archrival USC, Torey walked into a Pioneer Chicken franchise in his UCLA baseball uniform to grab a quick bite to eat.  As he waited in line, he was approached by an elderly gentleman who asked how the team had done.  Torey answered, “We beat USC,” and realized it was Coach Wooden.


“Congratulations young man,” Wooden told him.  “And remember, those four letters across your chest have got to mean something to you.  Every time you can, you beat those Trojans.”


Wooden was not only the source of meaningful life lessons for Torey.  For many years, he helped the PawSox manager give out some great Christmas gifts.


“I gave everybody that I know autographed basketballs from Coach Wooden for a Christmas present for about five years,” Torey said with a laugh.  “You would go to the athletic department, put a little sticker on the ball and leave it in a big pile.  Then you would go back a month later and they would all be signed.  He didn’t charge a dime.  The first time I did it was for me and my dad.  I left stickers that requested, ‘To Sam’ and ‘To Torey,’ and I went back a month later and they were there.  I think anybody could have sent a basketball to UCLA and Coach Wooden would have signed it.


“I have a great black and white picture where I am sitting beside Coach Wooden when I was about 7 or 8 years old and he autographed it, ‘To Torey, Coach Wooden.’  I went to a UCLA basketball game with my son about 10 years ago when he was right around the same age and had the same photo taken with Coach Wooden.  So I have the two photos in a frame together and that’s going to be an heirloom that will be in the family forever.”


In other words, John Wooden is a string that ties Torey Lovullo to his father and his son. 


In a double knot.


* * * * *


Ryan Kalish picked a great time to hit his first Triple-A home run.  His 2-run blast in the 13th inning gave Pawtucket an 8-6 win in Louisville on Saturday night.


The two teams meet again on Sunday at 6:05.  I hope you’ll join us for radio coverage beginning with the pre-game show at 5:50 on the PawSox radio network and pawsox.com.


I’d love to hear from you.  Please take a moment to tell me who you are and where you’re from in the comments section or you can e-mail me at dhoard@pawsox.com.


And if you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard

My Memories of Ken Griffey Jr.

I’ve sat courtside and watched Michael Jordan dunk.


I was standing a few feet away when Tiger Woods hit perhaps the greatest shot of his career.

Tiger chip


I was behind the mic when Tim Tebow ended his legendary college career by throwing for 482 yards and 4 touchdowns in the Sugar Bowl.


But the coolest thing I’ve ever watched in sports was a news conference.

Griffey presser re.jpg

(photo courtesy of the Cincinnati Enquirer)

It was February 9, 2000 and the Cincinnati Reds had just pulled off what appeared to be one of the greatest trades in baseball history by acquiring Ken Griffey Jr. in his prime.


I have never seen a city more excited about anything.

Griffey cover re.jpg 

The Reds had won 96 games the year before without Griffey, and didn’t have to part with any of their most important players to get him (although Mike Cameron became an All-Star).  Additionally, Junior agreed to a new nine-year contract for considerably less money than he had been offered by the Seattle Mariners. 


“Well, I’m finally home,” Griffey said that night as cameras clicked. “This is my hometown. I grew up here. It doesn’t matter how much money you make; it’s where you feel happy. Cincinnati is the place where I thought I would be happy.”


Unfortunately, injuries prevented Junior from staying on the field, and Cincinnati fans rarely got to see the player who was among the greatest outfielders in history during his first 11 years with Seattle.


Between 2001 and 2004 when he was between the prime ages of 31 and 34, Griffey missed 331 of a possible 648 games.  And yet, he still finished 6th on the all-time home run list with 630 – without any suspicion of steroid use.


I feel privileged to have gotten to know Junior when I hosted the Reds pre-game show on Fox Sports Ohio and he ranks among my favorite people to cover.  He’s smart, hysterically funny, and has the memory of an elephant.


Some reporters found him difficult to deal with, but I think that was only because Junior didn’t like talking about himself.  If the subject was his teammates, baseball history, other sports, or his kids – especially his kids – Griffey would chew your ear off.


And he loved playfully jabbing the media.


Once after Junior had jogged to first base on a hit that probably should have been a double, Cincinnati’s Hall of Fame broadcaster Marty Brennaman ripped him on the radio for his lack of hustle.  That led to verbal spat between the two that ended with Brennaman barking, “I was here before you were here and I’ll be here after you’re gone.”


The next day, Junior approached Marty and asked him when he started broadcasting Reds games.  Brennaman answered, “1974.”


Griffey smiled and produced a photo of himself in a Reds uniform at age 4 with his father in the Reds annual Family Day game.  It was from 1973.


Another time, I was standing next to Junior when we noticed a member of the media pulling out all of the stops in an attempt to impress an attractive woman.  Suddenly, Griffey began loudly chanting, “Let’s go Hoyas, Let’s go Hoyas.”


When I asked why, Junior said, “Remember when Georgetown had that suffocating full-court press under John Thompson in the 80’s?  That was nothing compared to our boy right now.”


I have three favorite Griffey stories of my own.


One winter, Griffey allowed me and videographer Kent Weaver to spend time with him at his home in Orlando for a series of “At Home with Junior” stories.  One of the things we did was attend one of his son Trey’s football games, and when we got to the stadium, I was surprised to see three TV cameras already there.  As it turned out, Griffey hated missing his children’s sporting events so much that he hired a TV production crew to professionally videotape every one.  We went back to his house that night and watched the game again. 

Griffey smile.jpg 


If you think Junior had a big smile on his face at the bottom of the celebration after scoring the winning run in that playoff game against the Yankees in 1995, you should have seen him beam after a long touchdown run by his son.


* * * * *


I’ve told the story in more detail before, but I jokingly take credit for one of Griffey’s best seasons in Cincinnati.  In May of 2005, my wife Peg was sent to Rome by WBZ-TV to cover the funeral of Pope John Paul II and the papal succession.


Junior was off to a slow start at the time, so he asked if my wife could bring back a Pope T-shirt for good luck.  This is what she brought back:

Junior with Pope-T re.jpg 

For the rest of that season, Junior had it proudly displayed in his locker.  After big games he would find me in the clubhouse with a huge grin on his face and simply say, “Pope t-shirt!”


From May 1st until the end of the ’05 season, Griffey hit .313 with 34 HR and 83 RBI in 85 games and was named the National League’s Comeback Player of the Year.


* * * * *


Just before leaving Cincinnati to work for the PawSox, I got a call on my cell phone from an unlisted number.  When I answered, the person on the other end assumed that I knew who it was, and I was too embarrassed to say, “Excuse me, but who the heck is this?”  It was Griffey, and he called to wish me good luck and find out exactly what I was going to be doing.  Just before we hung up, I finally realized who it was and wasn’t really able to tell him how much I appreciated the gesture.


So thanks for the phone call Junior.


And 22-years of thrilling baseball.

I’d love to hear from you at Dan.Hoard@Bengals.nfl.net

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Kalish Could Soon Be Needing A Boston Hat . . . Again

Ryan Kalish is from Red Bank, New Jersey, meaning he grew up 56 miles from Yankee Stadium.  When the 22-year-old outfielder joined the PawSox on Tuesday, I asked him to guess what percentage of baseball fans in his hometown root for the Bronx Bombers.


“Well, besides my family I’d say that everyone does, so the Red Sox have about a half-percent,” Kalish said with a laugh.  “Growing up, I was a Yankee fan too. There is a rumor that I was a Red Sox fan as a kid, but I really liked watching the Yankees.”


Kalish kick re.jpg 

(photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)


The inaccurate rumor about Kalish being a lifelong Boston fan probably stems from his high school graduation when Ryan walked across the stage wearing a Red Sox hat.


“I actually got the call that I had been drafted by Boston about two minutes before I was walking in,” Kalish said.  “There had been confirmed talks that Boston was going to draft me so I had a Red Sox hat in my back pocket.  My family didn’t even know – I just walked in with a Sox hat on and that’s how they found out.”


Kalish was a 9th round selection by Boston in 2006, and the Sox gave him second round bonus money ($600,000) to convince him to turn down a scholarship offer from the University of Virginia.  In five pro seasons, Ryan has steadily climbed the Red Sox minor league ladder while earning the reputation for being a Trot Nixon-like “Dirt Dog.”


I honestly attribute that to playing high school football,” Kalish told me.  “I had a very strong football upbringing and that game will teach you that if you want to get the respect of your team, than you have to play all-out. That’s what I want to do here, get the respect of everyone by playing hard.”


“He is a throwback style of player who plays every inning like it’s his last,” said PawSox manager Torey Lovullo.  “He’s going to be exciting for all of us to watch.” 


Terry Francona and the major league coaching staff got to watch Kalish this spring, as Ryan was invited to big league training camp for the first time.  He batted a respectable .267 in nine exhibition games with Boston, while studying the habits of his veteran teammates.


“I got to play with Mike Cameron in major league camp and he came in for about five days on rehab in Portland, and I learned by just watching everything he does – from the way he plays the game to what he does when he isn’t playing the game. He’s a major league guy for fifteen years and he watched us play even on the days when he didn’t play.   He had a game where he was 0-for-4 and he was happy and telling us, ‘Tomorrow is a new day,’ and the next day he goes 3-for-5 with a walk-off home run.”


Cameron also had a rehab stint with Pawtucket and showed incredible generosity toward his PawSox teammates by purchasing several expensive post-game spreads and inviting players to join him in a luxury box at a Celtics playoff game.


Was Cameron equally generous during his time in Portland?


“Oh, absolutely – especially with the spreads,” Kalish said.  “Obviously there were no big events close enough for us to go to, but I’m sure he would have done that too. He bought our team a pretty expensive machine for massaging so he does it all. And the spreads were unbelievable – sushi two nights, lobster one, and I think the other night was ribs and steak. It was just incredible what he did for us.”


Cameron is back in Boston now, and Kalish could join him before the end of the season.  After batting .293/.404/.527 with 8 HR and 13 SB in 41 games with Portland, the Red Sox #3 prospect (according to soxprospects.com) has climbed to the Triple-A level at the age of 22.


It feels awesome – this is the dream of all baseball players,” Ryan said.  “I’m just looking to get up through the ranks of the minor leagues and get a chance to be a part of something special and make the major leagues, so it’s really, really cool.”


In other words, he could need a Boston Red Sox hat again in the near future.


* * * * *


Boof Bonser began a 30-day rehab stint with the PawSox on May 7th, so the Red Sox face a decision on what to do with him in the next five days.


Bonser re.jpg 

In his last two outings, the 28-year-old righty has made a strong case to join Boston’s bullpen.  On Tuesday night, Bonser allowed 1 ER in 7 IP with no walks and 6 strikeouts and Boof has only allowed 1 run in his last 13 innings.


Unfortunately, he still doesn’t have a win.


On Tuesday, Bonser left the game after 7 innings with a 2-1 lead, but Chad Paronto surrendered a 2-run HR to Charlotte’s Luis Rodriguez in the 8th inning, and the PawSox lost to the Knights 3-2.


Niuman Romero’s first home run in a PawSox uniform accounted for Pawtucket’s only runs.


The PawSox will send Felix Doubront (0-1, 1.50) to the mound in Game 3 of the 4-game series on Wednesday night at 7:05.


I hope you’ll join us for radio coverage beginning with the pre-game show at 6:50 on the PawSox radio network and pawsox.com.


I’d love to hear from you.  Please take a moment to tell me who you are and where you’re from in the comments section or you can e-mail me at dhoard@pawsox.com.


And if you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard